"We're fighting a war against a story" : counter-histories, counter-narratives in Bodega Dreams and The People of Paper
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Despite a long history of Latina/os in the United States, in many cases Latina/os are still considered foreigners who exist outside of American culture. For Latina/o writers this is especially difficult, as Latina/o literature is often painted as a one-dimensional genre, filled only with stark realist narratives of social justice that do not belong to an American literary canon. For Ramón Saldívar, a generation of “postrace” writers and aesthetics has emerged, marking a new Latina/o literary movement that can address this issue. Thus, through an examination of two novels by Latino authors, Ernesto Quiñonez’s Bodega Dreams (2000) and Salvador Plascencia’s The People of Paper (2005), I compare how each work pushes back against both Latina/o and Anglo-American literary norms and categories. In distinct ways, each novel establishes a conventional U.S. Latina/o historical narrative and then transforms or transculturates it by appropriating canonical texts of American literature. By the end, these appropriations produce a counter-narrative which questions and subverts this traditional history of the Latina/o experience and resists imperialist definitions and representations. By questioning a one-dimensional and static Latina/o historical narrative and by recognizing current innovations in the field, Latina/o literature as a whole can overcome barriers to legitimacy and assert that Latina/os have formed and are forming a literary legacy of their own in the United States. Furthermore, we can demonstrate how multiple literatures can exist and retain legitimacy under one “nation,” clutching to the hope that we can achieve this for the Latina/o community as well.